×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

iPhone brings cinematography to masses

Latest model improves image, sound, records in high-def

As studios continue the transition from film to digital, the indie filmmaking community is going through a metamorphosis of its own.

The introduction of video recording options on Digital SLR cameras opened a lot of doors for budding auteurs on a budget, but advances to the camera quality of the latest iPhone could bring a flood of new offerings from people who haven’t previously been able to afford quality video equipment.

Apple put a heavy emphasis on the iPhone 4S camera, adding high-def 1080p recording capabilities (the iPhone 4 had 720p), updating the maximum aperture and improving the auto-white balance, while also offering image stabilization and temporal noise reduction. The result is a handheld video camera that shoots nearly as well as Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II at certain settings. And that’s already encouraging people to see what they can coax from the $200 device (not including two-year phone service contract).

“I foresee a lot more people experimenting with short film,” says Dmitry Kozko, CEO of OpenFilm, an online community for independent filmmakers whose advisory board includes actors James Caan, Robert Duvall and Scott Caan, along with director Mark Rydell. “I see it growing online, and I see a lot of festivals coming up that will cater to (the 4S), if only because of the ‘cool factor.’ ”

The 4S certainly holds a pricing advantage, but it’s handicapped in many ways when compared with DSLR recording devices. The aforementioned Canon camera performs much better in low-light situations. (The title sequence of “Saturday Night Live” is shot solely with a pair of Canon DSLRs, for instance.) And the iPhone is still incapable of shallow depth of field, due to its small sensors.

Still, that’s not stopping some filmmakers from testing out the 4S for shorts. Benjamin Dowie of South Australia’s Beanpole Prods. has shot an unnamed experimental short on the device, which has become a viral hit online.

Even before the improvements, the iPhone was becoming a tool of interest to filmmakers. South Korean director Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy”) shot the thriller “Paranmanjang” (Night Fishing) exclusively with an iPhone 4. The 30-minute movie later won the 2011 Golden Bear for short film in Berlin.

The cinematic potential of the iPhone has grown to the point where there’s a viable peripheral business geared to filmmakers. The Steadicam Smoothee has targeted iPhone shooters for the past two years, offering near professional level image stabilization. And the Owle Bubo incorporates a wide-angle and macro lens to enhance the phone’s default offerings.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Plex

    Plex Signs Up Lionsgate for Upcoming Ad-Supported Video Service

    Media center app maker Plex has struck a deal with Lionsgate to add some of the studio’s movies and TV shows to its upcoming ad-supported video service. The news comes just weeks after Plex announced a similar deal with Warner Bros. “Lionsgate is one of the biggest names in the business and we know our [...]

  • Comcast Xfinity Flex

    Comcast Drops $5 Monthly Fee for Xfinity Flex Video-Streaming Set-Top for Broadband Customers

    Comcast will hand out one free set-top box for broadband subscribers to access Xfinity Flex, its video-streaming product for internet-only customers, as it looks to punch up the value of its high-speed internet business. Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and CEO, announced the new strategy at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia conference Wednesday in New York. “One of [...]

  • Facebook Portal TV

    Facebook Announces $149 Portal TV Device, 2 New Portal Smart Displays

    Facebook wants you to put a camera into your living room: The company officially unveiled its Portal TV device Wednesday that brings video chatting, augmented reality (AR) and Facebook Watch to any TV set. In addition, the company also unveiled two new Portal smart display devices that are aggressively priced to grow the company’s home [...]

  • Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, South

    Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series to Shoot in New Zealand

    Amazon Studios has set New Zealand as the location for its upcoming series production of “The Lord of the Rings,” following in the footsteps of the movies made by Peter Jackson. Pre-production on the series has started, and production on the series will begin in Auckland in the coming months. “We knew we needed to [...]

  • Google Assistant example

    How Google Found Its Voice

    A few years back, Google was actively exploring whether it should launch a male counterpart to Amazon’s female Alexa voice assistant. “When we first launched the Google Assistant, we intended to use a male voice, just to be different,” Google Assistant product manager Brant Ward recently recalled. However, at the time, text-to-speech technology was still [...]

  • Podium Publishing Taps Scott P. Dickey

    Podium Publishing Taps Scott P. Dickey as Chief Executive Officer

    Independent audiobook publisher Podium Publishing has selected veteran media executive Scott P. Dickey as chief executive officer. Greg Lawrence, former CEO and co-founder,  remains as Podium’s publisher and a member of the board of directors. As CEO, Dickey will set and implement the day-to-day and long-term marketing, production and business strategy for the company as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content